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April 2006, Volume 12, Number 2
Los Angeles-based Global Horizons, which brought 170 Thai workers to the Yakima Valley in 2004 on H-2A visas to harvest apples, had its labor contractor's license revoked by the state of Washington in December 2005; hearings on its appeal are set for September 2006. There were five conditions imposed on Global to keep its license, including posting a $160,000 bond rather than the usual $20,000 bond for contractors who employ more than 100 people.
The UFW and Global Horizons in April 2006 announced a national three-year agreement under which the H-2A workers brought to the US by Global Horizons would be paid two percent more than the AEWR, $9.03 an hour in Washington, and become dues-paying members of the UFW. Any domestic workers hired by Global would also become union members; the agreement is between the UFW and Global, not the farms on which the H-2A workers are employed.
Under the agreement, Global is to provide health insurance for H-2A workers, who must be covered by workers compensation insurance, and process their grievances in a three-step procedure "ending in binding mediation." Global currently recruits H-2A workers in Thailand and Vietnam. The agreement calls for the UFW to help Global recruit H-2A workers in Mexico.
According to Global president Mordechai Orian, who gained experience moving Thai workers to Israel, the agreement should reduce runaways, workers who disappear in the US, by improving conditions. The UFW says that workers will benefit from the grievance and seniority systems, and that the agreement will make US farmers more likely to turn to Global for H-2A workers.
The UFW-Global pact and similar a agreement between FLOC and the North Carolina Growers Association signal the desperation of unions to add members. In both cases, there were no elections to determine if workers wanted to be represented by the unions to which they are paying dues.
The Teamsters and UFW announced plans to launch another effort to organize workers in the Yakima area. In 1998, the Teamsters lost a vote at Yakima's Washington Fruit & Produce 161-121, and the NLRB refused to order a new election. In 2006, the unions aim to persuade employers to recognize them when they get a majority of employees to sign union authorization cards.
Oregon. Oregon produces about a quarter of the natural Christmas trees sold in the US each year, cutting about 7.3 million in 2005 (self-cut trees are additional), but is losing market share to pre-lit artificial trees, many imported from China. Self-cut trees sell for $3 to $4 a foot in Oregon.
The industry developed in the Willamette Valley in the mid-1950s, and expanded in 1955 when the federal government treated sales as subject to lower capital gains tax rates. Christmas trees grown in rows and pruned could be sold after six years, but periodic gluts led to lower prices.
The Bush administration wants to allow logging in federal forests after fires; logging after fires accounts for nearly half the logging on public land in Oregon. A dispute within the Oregon State College of Forestry over the effects of logging after the Biscuit fire burned 500,000 acres in 2002, led to a dispute over salvage logging, with most scientists saying it is not the best way to promote the ecologically sound recovery of burned federal forests.
Hawaii. Fresh Del Monte Produce announced in February 2006 that it would cease growing pineapples in Hawaii in 2008, eliminating 700 jobs for farm workers represented by International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 142. Dole Food Hawaii, which owns 3,000 acres of pineapples, and Maui Pineapple Company continue to produce pineapples in Hawaii.
New Mexico. A mechanical chili plant thinner that displaced 80 workers on 600-acre W.R. Johnson and Sons 2,800-acre farm may spread throughout the industry, reducing the need for workers who often commute daily from El Paso. The six-row machine can thin at least 2.5 acres an hour, about the same as a crew of 80. New Mexico chili acreage fell from 34,000 in 1992 to 15,000 in 2005.
Leah Beth Ward, " Union, contractor form curious coalition," Yakima Herald-Republic, April 11, 2006. Mai Hoang, "Teamsters, UFW to try again in Valley," Yakima Herald-Republic, March 16, 2006. Leah Beth Ward, "Global Horizons appeals to get its license back," Yakima Herald-Republic, February 1, 2006.